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American Sign Language:  "trick-or-treat"

In a message dated 10/11/2004 8:39:25 AM Pacific Daylight Time, writes:
If you were to sign "Trick or Treat" would it be "Trick (bodyshift) treat,
which?" or "Trick" "O.R." (or "or as in then") "Treat"?

Also, (October is fire safety month) what does the word for "match" look
like?  I found "lighting a match" on your website but I want to tell the
kids "Don't play with matches" or "leave the matches alone".  I could sign
"Don't light match" but am nervous that the motion in "light match" will
give the kids ideas on how matches are used.  Is there a sign for "lighter"?

Is there a sign for "costume"?  I found "Mask" on the ASL Browser site, but
couldn't find "costume".


Teresa (the same Teresa at

You aren't going to find one "perfect" sign for "trick or treat."

"Trick or treat" could be signed "TRICK CANDY."
Conceptually there is no need for an "or."  Hearing children do not literally mean it as a choice.  They are making a statement that gets them candy.  If they literally meant give me candy or I'll tip over your outhouse then I could see a need for the "or" concept.  If the "or" concept is used at all in this "statement" it would be a very, very small body shift.

COSTUME is signed in context using the sign CLOTHES.  You establish the idea that you are talking about Halloween.  Then you ask someone what clothes they'll be wearing.  It is understood that you are talking about a "costume."

 If you need to make it clear, you can sign "HALLOWEEN CLOTHES" and eliminate the second movement of Halloween. Since it is a compound sign.

Matches:  This is a noun-verb pair with "light-a-match."  Use a small double movement to mean "matches."  Note: Context can also be used to change the meaning of "light-a-match." to match.  For example, suppose I signed, YOU HAVE "LIGHT A MATCH?" That would mean, "Do you have a match?" (Which means, "Do you have matches?")

The sign "LIGHTER"-(flame) is done by holding an imaginary lighter in your hand and clicking the switch twice.

- Dr. Bill

Here is a version that uses a combination of the signs "DECEIVE" and "CANDY"

DECEIVE (trick)


Here is a version of "trick or treat" that I figure started out as a combination of "TEASE" or "GIVE-to-me."
A friend of mine said he saw this being done by young students at "Fremont."  (California School for the Deaf "CSD" in Fremont, California.)  That was around 2007.    It will be interesting to see if this version sticks around or spreads.





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